Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tree Togetherness

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
From Trees by Joyce Kilmer 

Time and time again I've stood among trees or gazed up at the leafy boughs beneath one with those two poetic lines running through my mind.  It's easy to recall fond memories of summer or autumn days spent gathering leaves, pressing them between sheets of wax paper.  Later after using the clothes iron to seal them shut, holes would be punched along the side, string binding all the pages together like a book.  A space on my bookshelf is reserved for my copy of A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs by George A. Petrides (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1972).

For these reasons the planting of a tree is life-affirming; a way to ensure others may enjoy the many benefits they offer.  As told in Maple (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), February 20, 2014), the first picture book written and illustrated by Lori Nichols, planting a tree can be the start of special surprises.  The joyful passion of a single little girl will encircle you even after the last page is turned.

Maple loved her name.

Before she was born her parents put a seedling in the ground in celebration of her yet unknown exuberant self.  The two grew together; both maples in name.  By her tree Maple could shout aloud, sing with gusto, dance and make-believe.

On the best days Maple would lie on the ground looking up at the leaves watching them dance in the wind.  You might have noticed Maple trying to keep her tree warm during autumn breezes or play snowy games during winter.  No matter the season the friendship flourished.

One spring morning Maple made not one but two discoveries.  New companions would become part of their world.  At every opportunity Maple offered her best but so did her tree.

In Maple Lori Nichols has created an absolute gem of a character.  Single succinct sentences, placed with care to convey a storyteller's pacing, embrace the reader as readily as Maple does her tree. The use of parenthetical comments adds just the right touch of gentle humor to the narrative. Here is one passage.

Sometimes Maple wished she had someone else to play with.
(The tree wasn't very good at throwing snowballs.)

When you look at the dust jacket and book case, it's hard to conceive the illustrations were rendered in pencil on Mylar and then digitally colored.  There is a subtle softness about all of them; reaching out and touching the pages is exactly what you want to do.  (You also can't help falling in love with Maple either.) On the front Maple is pictured with her tree in the summer.  On the back it's winter.  Maple is hanging on to her tree leaning in the opposite direction.

The opening and closing endpapers are designed using elements found in the story; the former is in two shades of bright lime green, the latter in two hues of a cool light blue.  Lots of white space frames Maple, her tree and the new additions.  It's interesting to note only the lower half of Maple's parents is shown; giving her and the tree center stage.

Maple's red shoes and boots, her three tiny toy friends, the small white bunny, and the birds building a nest in the maple tree and laying eggs are examples of the attention to detail Lori Nichols provides for her readers.  The two page illustration showing the tiny toy friends gathered around one surprise while Maple looks at the other is charming with a capital C.

One of my favorite illustrations is of baby Maple lying in her woven basket, gazing upward with maple leaves framing the page in variations of green and rust.  The quality of the maple leaves on this page (and the others) is astounding.  They look real enough to be rubbings.  You can almost see them flutter and hear the rustling.

In a word Maple written and illustrated by Lori Nichols is wonderfully winsome. (Okay...two)  It's meant to be shared one-on-one or with a group in the same voice as the combined text and pictures; comfortable conversation with laughter and love of life radiating from each page.  Everyone will want to plant a tree, their own tree.

Please follow the link embedded in Lori Nichols name to access her website.  She has a great book trailer there.  Lori Nichols is interviewed at Miss Marple's Musings.  Here is another lovely interview at Frog On A Blog.


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